set the world on fire

set the world on fire

To do wonderful or exciting things that cause a great or remarkable sensation in the world; to be extremely popular, famous, renowned, etc. (Often used in the negative to indicate the opposite.) I wouldn't be too concerned with what he thinks of you. For all his money and education, he's hardly setting the world on fire, is he? As a girl, Janet dreamed of setting the world on fire as a famous actress.
See also: fire, on, set, world

set the world on fire

Fig. to do exciting things that bring fame and glory. (Frequently with the negative.) I'm not very ambitious. I don't want to set the world on fire. You don't have to set the world on fire. Just do a good job.
See also: fire, on, set, world

set the world on fire

Perform an outstanding feat and win fame, as in An ambitious man, he longed to set the world on fire with his inventions. This hyperbolic expression uses set on fire in the sense of "arouse excitement in." Also see set on fire, def. 2.
See also: fire, on, set, world

not set the world on fire

or

not set the world alight

If someone or something does not set the world on fire or does not set the world alight, they do not cause great excitement or interest. The 29-year-old Frenchman hasn't exactly set the tennis world on fire. The series isn't setting the world alight, despite some good writing and solid performances.
See also: fire, not, on, set, world
References in classic literature ?
A Pygmy, you know, though so very small, might set the world on fire, just as easily as a Giant could; so that this was certainly the very best way of dealing with their foe, provided they could have kept him quiet while the conflagration was going forward.